The theme of the UN Pavilion is "One Earth, One UN." What is the concept behind it?
The theme of the UN Pavilion is also an abstract of the theme of the Expo, "Better City, Better Life." What better life is all about is ultimately the happiness of the people, the prosperity, the dignity, and the freedom. What the United Nations stands for are precisely these principles. What we wanted to demonstrate is that there is a purpose in the UN as a whole and that this diversity does address certain physical challenges, world issues, and how people can live better lives and how we can construct better cities – whether they have education, human rights, peace, security, and economic development. But how do we look at this in terms of the holistic eventuality? Because we live on one planet – there's not another planet. All that we want to do has to be related to that important issue of having sustainable, long-term happiness that is transferred from generation to generation. When I say better life, it's not just focusing on environmental issues but the totality of human interactions. So our theme is the result of trying to address this diversity of "better city, better life" and of methods, as they relate to what you see when you enter our pavilion, the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are the human goals that have been set for the United Nations, and from that base, we can look at how we address this issue of how to create better cities, better lives.
How do you coordinate the participation of the different UN organizations represented in the pavilion?
We do not want to divide this house into cubicles and try to portray what each organization does. We wanted to tell a story— a story that runs across all the issues that are important for better cities and better lives. So we don't identify what each agency does but how the UN as a whole addresses the challenges – the environment, security... and it goes from one to the other. We address resilience of cities by looking at what happens when you have an earthquake and a tsunami; we look at better life by addressing the rights of women and education, we look at economic development. We present these thematic issues that come from all the work of the UN as a whole in what we call "physical challenges." But in order to respond to these physical challenges, it's the human creativity that becomes central— the human dimension— and that's why we have what we call the "creative corridor." The creative corridor is about the genius of humans to meet these physical challenges – through literature, art, research, IT, knowledge and technology.
But what we do best at the UN is creating consensus – we try to create agreement and harmony between societies and nations. So we cannot have a pavilion that does not have a forum – a forum for dialogue. This whole Expo is an important international tool for dialogue between cultures and civilizations for harmony and peaceful coexistence. So we have a forum where we engage the visitors in the content of what better city, better life is all about.
What does it mean for the UN to participate in this Expo?
I cannot imagine an Expo without the United Nations. It's part of the UN's very spirit and ethics. The UN is the home of everybody, and all these nations are members of the UN and they are engaged in what the UN does. Individually, each presents its own capacities. I think what the UN represents is the collective wisdom and the collective will of humanity to do better. It is a way of expressing how we, in different cultures, can live together, can create understanding and consensus on how to meet the challenges – and the most important are peace and security. So this is a tremendous opportunity for the UN to be part of this greater dialogue.
What has your experience been like in preparing for the UN Pavilion?
As Commissioner-General, I look at our modest pavilion – it is a modest pavilion — and I think we could do better and we would like to do better, but of course that depends on resources and availability of resources. We could always wish to do better. But that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is that we are here and we can participate in the dialogue. Now there are a number of challenges as to how to engage our visitors, to make them both comfortable and get our messages through – which are complicated and intellectual messages – in a way that is also entertaining. How to cater to the elderly and the children, how to capture their senses and engage them in our messages – these are tremendous challenges. How we present ourselves and how we present our content become very important.
Your background is one of a UN diplomat, with many years spent in the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). With your extensive experience in the world of multilateral cooperation, trade, and development, can you comment on the role of this Expo to stimulate exchange –commercial and otherwise— between China and the participating countries?
For one thing we are exposed to the greatness of this country. Obviously there are tremendous opportunities. This is a developing country, but at the same time it is a country that can challenge any other country in technology, organization, capacity, and in productivity. It is also a very populous country with great social challenges. It is important to understand how China works. Through that understanding, there will be greater opportunities for exchange in many ways – trade and physical exchange of goods and services but also exchange of cultures, knowledge, understanding, and traditions. All this creates opportunities for greater cooperation.
What is your overall impression of the Expo? Your favorite pavilions?
First of all, this is a very challenging and tiring job but also very enjoyable at the same time. I don't have a favorite pavilion – my favorite is the Expo itself. It is a wonderful Expo – a tremendously different Expo, very engaging in what we see, from the very high technology to the simplest way expressing the message of "Better City, Better Life." But I enjoy my interaction here and what gives me the greatest satisfaction is when I see our visitors looking at our presentations, listening to our forums, taking their photographs and taking their memories from their visits.
Do you have any final messages to the visitors of the Expo?
Come and be engaged with us. Come to our forums, sit down, be brave and ask questions, and we would be happy to answer your questions. Take your time and don't hurry. Enjoy what you see.